Three engineering students set fire to dry bushes in at least 15 different locations along a 10-km stretch under the jurisdiction of Khol Hi-Raitan Wildlife Sanctuary on the Panchkula-Morni road only to make videos of their journey on Wednesday.
Rahul Kumar, Simranjit Singh and Kunark of Chandigarh University, Kharar, were apprehended by a team of the forest department, which was tipped off by two villagers about the adventurous act of the students, after a 5-km-long hot chase near Gurdwara Nada Sahib.
On Thursday, Panchkula police registered an FIR against three students under Section 435 (mischief by fire with intent to cause damage) of IPC, sections 32, 37 of the Indian Forest Act and Section 3 of Public Property Damage Act.
Police have seized the two cellphones with which the students made videos of their journey through the burning bushes, a gas lighter, used to set fire to dry leaves and bushes, and a Santro belonging to the students. Rahul is a resident of Baltana in Zirakpur, Simranjit hails from Amritsar and Kunark belongs to Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. The FIR was registered on the statement of Forest Officer Sunil Kundu.
Kundu said, “Three men were filming the scene after setting the bushes on fire. They were spotted by some local villagers near Madna village situated between Morni T-point and bus stand. As the villagers raised objection, the students went ahead and again set the bushes on fire and started recording the scene on their cell phones. Later, the villagers passed the information to the local forest beat staff, who were on routine patrol in view of the increasing incidents of fire in the Morni forests. My beat staff member raised an alarm and three different teams of 45 people, including labourers and forest employees, rushed on to the specific road and doused the fire using water tanks. One of the villagers noticed the number of the students’ car. We chased the car and intercepted it near Gurdwara Nada Sahib.”
Sources said, “As the three men were nabbed by a team of the forest department, students begged for forgiveness. Subsequently, a message was conveyed to senior forest officers, who decided to lodge a police complaint against three of them.”
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) S M Somashekhar said, “We decided to file an FIR against three of them and instructed the forest officer to lodge a complaint against them. The incidents of fire are being reported each passing day in the Morni forest. Indeed, extreme hot weather and fire in the adjoining forests of Himachal is the prime reason behind the fire in the forests and we cannot tolerate human mischief in this direction.”
A case was registered at Chandimandir police station. Inspector Suresh Kumar, SHO, said, “The students will be arrested following the legal formalities. We called their parents and informed them about the act. We will summon them again.”